By Charles Glover, Jr.
On Monday night the Kentucky Wildcats will take on the Connecticut Huskies in the Men’s National Championship. On Tuesday night the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will challenge the Connecticut Lady Huskies in the Women’s National Championship. Both games have intriguing stories that are sure to make the matchups entertaining.
The men’s championship features two schools that have been very successful over the past fifteen years, yet neither team made the NCAA tournament last year. Kentucky features five freshmen, led by forward Julius Randle and guard Aaron Harrison. Harrison has become known for his late game heroics in this tournament. When asked about his confidence late in games he expressed, “You can’t be scared to miss…you want to be the guy that makes all the big shots.”
Connecticut is led by senior guard Shabazz Napier, a member of the 2011 National Championship team which was led by current Bobcat Kemba Walker. Napier displayed confidence in his team as he proclaimed, “We believe in each other and continue to believe…we are going to win. That is what we do.” On the sidelines, Kentucky’s coach John Calipari will be seeking his second national title in three attempts. Meanwhile, Kevin Ollie is in only his second season as a head coach and is already demonstrating his ability to lead the Huskies through difficult situations.
The women’s championship features two schools that have been among the best over the past several years. Notre Dame gained national exposure when it was led over previous years by Skylar Diggins. However, this year’s team was led by recently injured senior forward Natalie Achonwa and senior guard Kayla McBride. Both players have been members of Notre Dame teams that have defeated UConn several times over the past few season but not in the NCAA tournament. UConn is looking to repeat as champions and win a record ninth national title. Led by junior forward Breanna Stewart, the Lady Huskies are likely to be favored to win as they have championship experience and their main contributors are healthy.
The University of Connecticut is looking to make history as they can achieve a feat only once completed before (in 2004) in having both the men’s and women’s team win the national title in the same year. Both teams are aware of their unique opportunity. As Lady Huskies guard Bria Hartley describes, “Our men are excited for us and we’re doing the same for them…both teams worked hard this year.” Interestingly, the University of Louisville had a chance to accomplish this feat last year but was unsuccessful. Yet another intriguing reason to watch both national championship games.–OnPointPress.net
Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com.